Gemmell shortlist and apology

First off, congrats to everyone for being shortlisted.


Secondly, here are the figures using my my semi-arbitrary criteria, after which I’ll put some more expanded thoughts.

The Dread Wyrm by Miles Cameron (Gollancz) – 2k ratings (not looking good for me so far, book 1 has 7k but it’d be a stretch to make that claim)
Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia (Baen) – also 2k, though Correia + awards is a complicated matter I believe.
Gotrek & Felix: Slayer by David Guymer (Black Library) – 92 ratings. Seriously?! Oh come on. I know it’s a Warhammer novel and that may distort things but come on, gimme a break here!
Ruin by John Gwynne (Pan Macmillan) 1.7k – A man who’s done well at the Gemmells and seems to be selling loads, but still far fewer ratings than others on the list
The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence (Harper/Voyager) 5k – perhaps I should have expected this would do well given how committed his fans are, but still it was book 2 in a new series with lots of big names on the list.


So, first and foremost, apologies to the Gemmell committee. Clear (and perhaps inevitably) it’s a more nuanced matter as to who’s getting the votes in these awards that I’d characterised.

As for further thoughts about the list. Cameron actually has sold better than I’d realised. They’re not vast numbers on Goodreads or Amazon but very good all the same. He’s got a very successful career in historical fiction I know, but I’m not sure that could explain it by itself. Correia’s fanbase is large and motivated on the awards front so… yeah, there’s that. Interestingly he’s the only one to not have a UK publisher on this UK-based award. Guymer is a Warhammer writer and so far as I’m aware they follow different sales paths – checking Goodreads and Amazon you’d think it’s sold almost nothing, let alone enough to get ahead of folk like Abercrombie on a popular vote.

As for Gwynne and Lawrence, they’re the least surprising ones on the list even if I didn’t think they’d be on it.

And lastly – I’ve got no bloody idea who’s going to win out of that lot! If I had to put money on it I’d go for Lawrence, but clearly there’s a lot going on in this vote so I’ll be keen to see the numbers if they get released. I’m reminded that I originally said it’d be a big old sausage fest, and there I did seem to get it right, but there’s probably a lot to be unpicked by others about the nature of various fanbases.

Some inaccurate Gemmell figures

So I thought I needed to do a follow-up to my last, esp in light of Stan Nichols replying to my last. To get more of a clue I fetched up the list of winners and shortlisted books for the Legend award to see what Goodreads ratings they have – yes, I know that’s hardly scientific, but it’s a handy rough guide for how books have sold in the US & UK markets so it’s a starting point:




Best novel: Andrzej Sapkowski for Blood of Elves – 20k

Nominated: Juliet Marillier for Heir to Sevenwaters – 10k

Nominated: Brandon Sanderson for The Hero of Ages -128k

Nominated: Joe Abercrombie for Last Argument of Kings -61k

Nominated: Brent Weeks for The Way of Shadows -98k




Best novel: Graham McNeill for Empire 335 ratings

Nominated: Joe Abercrombie for Best Served Cold -32k

Nominated: Pierre Pevel for The Cardinal’s Blades – 575 ratings

Nominated: Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson for The Gathering Storm – 89k

Nominated: Brandon Sanderson for Warbreaker – 53k




Best novel: Brandon Sanderson for The Way of Kings – 129k

Nominated: Pierre Pevel for The Alchemist in the Shadows 0 269 ratings

Nominated: Brent Weeks for The Black Prism – 52k

Nominated: Peter V. Brett for The Desert Spear – 51k

Nominated: Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson for Towers of Midnight – 87k

Nominated: Markus Heitz for The War of the Dwarves – 3k




Best novel: Patrick Rothfuss for The Wise Man’s Fear – 230k

Nominated: Brandon Sanderson for The Alloy of Law – 67k

Nominated: Kristen Britain for Blackveil – 7k

Nominated: Joe Abercrombie for The Heroes – 25k

Nominated: William King for Blood of Aenarion – 200 ratings




Best novel: Brent Weeks for The Blinding Knife – 36k

Nominated: Helen Lowe for The Gathering of the Lost – 464 ratings

Nominated: Mark Lawrence for King of Thorns – 32k

Nominated: Joe Abercrombie for Red Country – 19k

Nominated: Jay Kristoff for Stormdancer – 8k




Best novel: Mark Lawrence for Emperor of Thorns – 24k

Nominated: Peter V. Brett for The Daylight War – 32k

Nominated: Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson for A Memory of Light – 61k

Nominated: Scott Lynch for The Republic of Thieves – 40k

Nominated: Adrian Tchaikovsky for War Master’s Gate – 537 ratings

(because I was curious, seeing that as the most obvious outlier, I checked book 1 in that series: 6k ratings – very good, but not high enough to be an explanation)



Best novel: Brandon Sanderson for Words of Radiance -81k

Nominated: Joe Abercrombie for Half a King – 24k

Nominated: John Gwynne for Valour – 3k

(was also curious about that one, book 1 won the Morningstar award but only has 5k ratings, so not enormous, Valour’s got over 200 Amazon reviews, more than Prince of Fools so maybe it’s sold better than this suggests, maybe just highlights the flaws of my method and original thinking!)

Nominated: Mark Lawrence for Prince of Fools – 11k

Nominated: Brent Weeks for The Broken Eye – 21k



So there are a number of outliers there, Pierre Pavel being one, McNeill, King, Lowe, & Tchaikovsky. Pavel is translated from French so there *may* be a distortion there given Goodreads is an English language  site, (similarly Heitz is I believe bigger in his home country than in English language territories) McNiell and King are Games Workshop books which I suspect distorts the figures, but Lowe and Tchaikovsky are very interesting results that my theory certainly can’t explain. I know Tchaikovsky is active on social media and his series has a good following, but not to the extent that he could (or would) game the vote, and I assume Lowe is the same on that front.


So all this doesn’t prove or disprove much, not least because some of these books weren’t massive sellers at the outset. Books like Hero of Ages have sold vastly more than those they lost to, but I believe Sanderson’s sales were more modest at the time.


However, it doesn’t offer a huge amount of hope to a minnow like me for next year’s award (Stranger of Tempest is eligible for next year, this year I’ve got Old Man’s Ghosts on the longlist but really almost no-one bought that and it’s less of a Gemmell type fantasy anyway).


But for all this, there’s little more to say until the shortlist is released (on Friday I believe?) so I’ll do a follow-up when I can get near a computer over the weekend.



Embittered Ranting about the Gemmell Awards


I got a lovely review for Stranger of Tempest today – for context, here it is:



And in said review, there was again a mention of some Gemmell-esque qualities, which is great not least because Gemmell was one of the benchmarks for the sort of fantasy story I want to write and tried to write with Stranger of Tempest. So while of course my first reaction was “woohoo!” my second was “of course it never stands a chance in the Gemmell awards because only rich authors are allowed to win.”


Now of course that sort of thinking sounds like the musings of an embittered mid-list fantasist and that is exactly what I am, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m wrong. Bear with me a minute…


For the sort of writer I am and the books I want to write, I’m unlikely to trouble most awards. They’re looking for a more literary type of book and that’s fine, but when the Gemmells were announced, the goal was something a little different. They wanted to celebrate books in the spirit of David Gemmell, which is good news to someone who writes and reads that sort of book. But in the name of popularism only the rich are properly eligible to win.


That might be a flippant way to put it, but publishing these days is a global beast and all the money runs to the top just as conservative politicians would like it to. So modest success is a rare thing to see, you’re either big across half the world and your success breeds more success, or you’re struggling. The mid-list continues to be squeezed and that’s just the way life goes.


So why the whinging from this corner of the mid-list? Simply put – the Gemmell awards are a popularity contest, so you need to have sold a lot of books to get a lot of votes. It might not be a guarantee of votes, but it’s the very first criteria. If I wasn’t an embittered mid-listers but someone who sells loads, I’d be reaping the rewards of my success. Bigger advances, a dozen or more translation deals, GoH slots at conventions etc etc. My mortgage would be paid and I’d be able to write with a lot less pressure, but also, I wouldn’t NEED to win awards as a result. They would be nice certainly, but they wouldn’t make much difference to my career and life.


Sad to say, because it’s a popularity contest open to the world, the only people who can win it are the ones who don’t really benefit. And conversely, those who could benefit from winning, don’t stand a chance. Which is fun for us.


But sure, life’s not fair and this is hardly the biggest injustice around. However it rankles a bit and in large part because of one particular reason. The rules were changed – deliberately amended – to allow this to happen. For whatever reason, the awards committee decided to change their original plan to the open vote, and as a result they screwed those of us who could actually be helped by their award.


Yes, they screwed us. In the spirit of… well, something… they changed the rules with the net result that only massive-selling authors stood a chance. I could stand losing out to, say, Joe Abercrombie, on literary merit – the man’s a cracking writer after all – but to never be in the game, to never have a chance of comparison, is a kick in the crotch.


I think I’d guessed the Legend shortlist would look something like this:


Abercrombie, Brett, Hobb, Sanderson, Novik


But I could be wrong, I often am! I based that mostly on who has the most Goodreads ratings, with a few close calls going to ones who’ve got a bigger internet profile that I can see,


If any of the books on the actual shortlist has less than… say 5000 ratings of Goodreads (picking a figure that’s double my highest-selling book), I’ll gladly apologise and owe the award committee a drink or two. But I doubt that’s a bet many people would want to take.




*** Edit – Stan tells me that it was never intended as a juried vote so that is clearly either my faulty memory of being given incorrect information back when I first heard about it. Thought it best to note that here rather than rework the post and then have following comments refer to things unseen ***

The Stormcaller – 10th anniversary edition

Stormcaller special ed

I’m delighted to say that, because the début class of 2006 was of such exceptionally high quality, Gollancz have decided to release a 10th anniversary edition of each of their four débuts from that year – Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, Brandon Sanderson and myself!

The collector’s editions will be £15 hardbacks with special new covers and are going to look stunning on your bookshelves – especially as a complete set!

More details here, the books will be out in September, just in time for GollanczFest where three of us will be in attendance too.

Oh wait, that’s just the pre-order page for my book. Oops, the actual announcement is this one:

A short note from the department of unwritten books.

I was doing a bit of checking back in my files and found the cover copy of a book I’ll almost certainly never write – the third of the Empire of a Hundred Houses (probable) trilogy. Given it’s just sitting there, I thought I might as well post it for those who are curious. So, if you are I present you with The Army of Stolen Children:
The Army of Stolen Children
One person’s crime is another’s opportunity. You have to be special sort of bastard to believe that, but cometh the hour, cometh the madman.
The great beasts of the Empire of a Hundred Houses are stirring. After five hundred years House Dragon appears weakened to the other hegemonies – shamed by repeated failure to control the Imperial City while the ranks of their Astaren are bloodily thinned.
Investigator Narin had been looking forward to a quiet life with his new family, hoping the sanctity of the Emperor’s person would keep the city safe. But then a third faction announces itself, one whose origins are too close to home for comfort.
And this time there is no right or wrong, no side Narin wishes to choose. There is only the game of power, played by the high-born rulers of nations, but the opening move of that game is aimed directly at Narin and his friends.
The Army of Stolen Children is coming for them all.

The Stormcaller – ten years on.


So Wednesday was a little anniversary for me, assuming my memory can be trusted. Nope, nothing to do with meeting my wife, I dunno when that happened. Who keeps track of such things? There is, however, one date that has stuck in my mine – 16th of March, 2006 – because that’s the day I began a published author and The Stormcaller was unleashed upon the world.


Yup, my little (?!) boy Isak is ten years old.


Back then publishing had a different landscape, the interweb was a very different place, and the SFF community was almost entirely foreign to me. I’d just written a book because it wanted to be written. And then? Well it got released into English twice (three times if you count the audio edition), Russian, German, French, Czech and Polish. The English versions of Stormcaller have sold over 60,000 copies between them and just yesterday I got an email from a guy who enjoyed the series enough to take the time to write to me and tell me that, ten years on.


It’s been by far my most successful book; it’s paid a lot of bills and remains something I’m very proud of. Even when I got the chance to revise it I didn’t want to do much, just tidy up a few parts to make them easier to read. For better or worse it’s my debut book and the start of the million+ words that comprise the Twilight Reign. While it may not become a worldwide phenomenon with HBO series or movie deals, it’s still quite an achievement.


Some people loved it, some hated it. Some people wanted it to be another book by Joe Abercrombie or Scott Lynch (with whom I was published as a trio of debuts… I know, tough company right?), and were furious when they discovered a traditional epic instead. But lots of people loved it and I continue to feel humbled whenever I’m told someone’s read (and re-read) the idle thoughts of this modestly talented writer.


I’ve today sent the full ms of Princess of Blood to my agent and brother for first thoughts. It’ll be my ninth book to come out and this week I’ve had several hugely talented authors say humbling things about book 1, Stranger of Tempest, so tonight there will be wine. While I’ll be raising a glass to Isak, Mihn and all the others (not individually though, the cast list had approximately 500 names by the end) I’ll also be toasting two others in particular – John Parker, formerly of MBA and Zeno literary agencies, and Jo Fletcher, formerly of Gollancz now rightful queen of her own imprint, who saw something in the manuscript that made them willing to put more work in than anyone could reasonably expect.


And lastly, cheers to all of you who bought it. No refunds.

Fear The Reaper – copies for sale.


So my stand-alone novella Fear The Reaper is now on sale – the paperback edition anyway, the ebook’s listed as to be released in a week or two. It was a story I started just as a bit of practice and finished as a nice change of pace between finishing one series and starting the next, so I’m very fond of it for a few reasons and I’m inordinately pleased with how it looks now – photos don’t do the cover (by v talented artist Nele Diel, go find her on DeviantArt) justice, the proof I’ve got looks really great sitting in my hand.


So I’d be delighted if you went and bought a copy from somewhere like Amazon. They’re an unpleasant company who’re abusing a monopoly position, but it’s hard to avoid them in this game and I’d be a liar if I said I never bought anything from them so…


However, you could also place an order with me if you like. I’m going to get some stock from Kristell Ink and will gladly sign/date/scribble over them to your exact specifications, charging cover price plus whatever the postage is. If you’re interested, drop me an email and tell me where you’re based and I’ll let you know the cost. I will do drawings if people want, but I’m terrible at them and not even in a funny way, just a kinda sad scrawling way, so buyer beware there…


All the fun of the Eastercon!

In case anyone’s curious, here’s what I’m up to at Dysprosium – I’ll be around from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon and available to be bought drinks throughout most of that period. You’re very welcome to talk to me too should you want, but I understand that mostly people wouldn’t choose that so don’t feel you have to.


Friday at 17.30 – Cryptids: A Modern Bestiary?


Impossible creatures as the focus of literature and art, with Peter Harrow, Seanan McGuire, Adrian Tchaikovsky.


Friday 21.15 – Apocalypse Yesterday:


The Apocalypse has come and gone: what is in store for the survivors? Are post-apocalyptic representations in literature, television and film true to current thinking? Has this changed significantly from Survivors to the Walking Dead? How does this affect people as people and their representation as characters in fiction? With John Bray (mod), Nigel Furlong, Sabine Furlong, and Sarita Robinson.


Saturday – 4.15 – Signing!


Naturally I’ll be the big draw at the Saturday signing. And by that I mean I’ll be doodling the size of the line in front of Jim Butcher… But there will also be Aliette de Bodard, Charles Stross and Adrian Tchaikovsky, so there’ll be a range of fans waiting there and idly wondering who I am.



Sunday 11.15 – Gollancz Room Party


The reprobates in the Gollancz stable will be herded out by judicious use of cattleprods to meet a crowd of people hoping to meet Joe Abercrombie


Sunday 12.15 – Reading!


John Kaiine (whom I don’t know but after a quick google looks like a cool guy, artist, photographer and writer) and I will be doing readings. I’m down as reading from Old Man’s Ghosts as it’s the new book out, but I’ve struggled to find a section short enough so I’ll be coming armed with the first scene of my next novel Stranger of Tempest too – which is brief, a bit bloody, and a little sweary, and thus sums up the book nicely.

But I have now found a scene from OMG so we’ve got a choice, depending on what people fancy and whether anyone’s interested.

Announcement – new contract!

I’m delighted to announce that Marcus Gipps at Gollancz has acquired world rights, including translation, in two novels provisionally entitled STRANGER OF TEMPEST and PRINCESS OF BLOOD – the first two books of a heroic fantasy series called The God Fragments.


Furthermore Gollancz will be publishing a novella after each novel as bonus additions the series, featuring characters and/or back-story from the main series. The first two novellas are (provisionally) entitled Honour Under Moonlight and The Bay of Red Lights.


It’s been exactly ten years since I first signed up with Gollancz so I’m delighted to be kicking off a new series with them. I’ve been having great fun with this collection of foul-mouthed, childish and trigger-happy mercenaries so I’m eager to get on with having them blow up as much of the Fractured Kingdom as possible.


The books will follow a mercenary named Lynx who is struggling to maintain his decency in a world turned upside-down by war. An outcast from his own people and unwelcome most other places, he reluctantly signs up with a new company, only to discover that they’re perhaps not all as well-intentioned as he would like.

Marcus said in the Gollancz announcement “I am thrilled to be signing Tom up for another amazing new series. He’s been one of the most important names on our fantasy list for the last 10 years, and this new series serves as a perfect place for readers to jump on to his writing.”



And for those of you who’re interested in a few more details…


My tentative cover copy for Stranger of Tempest is:

It’s not easy being an honest man in a lawless world.

Lynx is a mercenary with a sense of honour; a dying breed in the Fractured Kingdom. Failed by the nation he served and weary of the skirmishes that plague the continent’s principalities, he walks the land in search of purpose. He wants for little so bodyguard work keeps his belly full and his mage-gun loaded. It might never bring a man fame or wealth, but he’s not forced to rely on others or kill without cause.

Little could compel Lynx to join a mercenary company, but he won’t turn his back on a kidnapped girl. At least the job seems simple enough; the mercenaries less stupid and vicious than most he’s met over the years.

So long as there are no surprises or hidden agendas along the way, it should work out fine.


The ongoing series centres on the wandering ex-soldier, Lynx, the mercenary company he joins, and an assassin called Toil, in a world beset by brief, violent spasms of war between city-states. But the stakes are set rise as the Militant Orders dedicated to the five shattered gods start to extend their power. For centuries the Orders have fuelled warfare across the continent by dominating production of magic-powered ammunition and perhaps now their time to rule has come.


It all started out with a short story idea I’d never worked out what it was about, while the first scene is based on a Twilight Reign short story I never got around to writing. With those images in my head and a general desire to write a fun adventure story about a mercenary called Lynx, I just started to write. I hadn’t even finished Old Man’s Ghosts by that point. I didn’t know if I was going to be writing more Empire novels or something else entirely; all I knew was that Lynx demanded to get on the page and wasn’t going to shut up until I had a few chapters down.


As that appeared, I got another image stuck in my head – that of mage-guns and the variety of magical bullets they might use. They seemed fun in a madcap and destructive sort of way so I shoved them and left it all to marinade in the back of my mind while I returned to Old Man’s Ghosts. By the time I’d finished OMG and a handful of other bits, that small idea had provided a world setting, put the theology in context, provided a series plot and answered a few other questions I had. Which turned out to be useful when we decided The God Fragments was the project to pursue next.


When Marcus asked if I’d planned later volumes, well… I hadn’t really and was just going on trust at that point. However, rather to my surprise two hours later I’d hammered out the basic shape for eight novels and eight novellas. I’m sure that will all change as Stranger takes its final shape and I decide how long a series I actually want to write, but I think it’s safe to say this is a story that wants to be told and I’m having fun doing just that.


ALL THE BOOKS! (for charity)

So it’s been ten years this Sunday since I signed my first contract with Gollancz. Which remains somewhat astonishing to me, mostly that I’m still allowed to make stuff up when I should be working a proper job… But anyway I was going to do a giveaway of all my books to celebrate when it occurred to me that I’ve done a few of those over the years and it was maybe time to do something different.


Instead, I want your money. Or rather, I want it to go to my local charity. I’m looking for bids on a set of all my published books (that’s the entire Twilight Reign plus the two Empire of a Hundred Houses books, seven novels and one collection of short stories – plus, if someone proves particularly generous, perhaps also a promise for copies of the novella and novel I’ve written but haven’t come out yet).


The charity is Helen and Douglas House, a hospice for children and young adults with life-shortening conditions. – and in case you want to just throw money their way right now, the best place for that is via their website or here – – the do brilliant work and are lovely people so well deserving of your generosity.


So put your bids in the comments here, as replies on facebook or twitter or emailed through my website even – I don’t care where, I’ll do my best to collate them and make it clear what the leading bid is. I’ll be covering postage (so kinda hoping for a UK-based winner ;0) ) and I’m open to negotiation when it comes to format, size of winning bid depending – I think I’ve got most of the ones printed – and will sign/dedicate/first line as requested so long as it’s vaguely reasonable.


I’ll leave this to run until Monday morning, get bidding!


all the books